Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It Never Fails

Today's Bible Reading:
1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Recommended Reading:
Deuteronomy 10:12-11:32
Matthew 22:34-40
Galatians 5

Odd, the things that make us feel like a failure! Earning 30 grand instead of 60. Becoming ill. Getting an answer wrong. Missing a grounder. Even odder, the things that make us feel like a sucess! Earning 60 grand. Staying healthy. Getting an answer right. Throwing out the guy at first.
Paul's well-known explination of love shows just how mixed up our ideas of failure and success can be. No matter what grand things we might accomplish, no matter what fine vision we might believe, no matter what deep and difficult truths we might learn, if we leave out love, it all means nothing. All our imperfect accomplishments will fail.
One thing, however, will never fail. Of the realities that remain when all else is gone, only one is supreme: love.
There it is. Without love, we fail. With it, we can't help but succeed.
Does that sound too easy? Well, people who've never tried it might think so. But this love is different from the natural love we've experienced. This kind of love comes virtues such as patience, honesty, forgiveness, trust and good manners. Further, it rules out self-interested motives.
This kind of love isn't easy at all. In fact, only one man has ever completely accomplished it. He knows and stands ready to forgive every rotten act you've ever committed. He always tells you the truth, and while the words might hurt, he desires only to heal. He sets an impossible pace but comes to your aid as you stumble along behind him. Despite the fact that you don't deserve such a sacrifice, he even gave his life for you.
This kind of love doesn't represent an out-of-the-way tangent or minor application of our faith. It stands as the central characteristic of faith. Jesus takes it a step further when he commands, "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35)
Jesus doesn't say that people will recognize us by our knowledge of Scripture or by our ability to spout memorized Bible verses or even by stands we take against the evils of our culture. While those actions have their place, Jesus simply says that others will recognize us by our love as belonging to Jesus.
There it is. Without love, we fail. With it, we can't do anything but succeed.
To Take Away:
  • How would you define the love of God in your own words? Can you find scripture to support your definiton?
  • True love is not natural; it comes from God. What stes can you take to become a more loving person?
  • What opportunities do you have to express Gods love to those around you today?

-Devotions by various writers: New Men's Devotional Bible, pg: 1219

**Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 y International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.**

Monday, August 24, 2009

First Serve

Today's Bible Reading:

Mark 10:35-45

Recommended Reading:

Joshua 24:14-27

Matthew 6:19-24

Ephesians 6:5-9

When was the last time you volunteered to do something in service to another person? If you're a father, you've probably done something selfless already to serve your child or children today. If you're a husband chances are you can remember the lat time you served your wife without her asking. But if you're a single guy in your first job, scraping together a living and trying to make ends meet, it's possible that it's been a while. Most of us know we should serve others, but we don't really know how. Talking about serving is a lot easier than actually doing it.
Jesus served throughout his ministry. When he served others, the act often involved self-sacrifice. Ultimately, he sacrified his life for our sins. When we serve others, especially those who have no way of repaying us, we imitate Jesus. We represent Christ to those we serve. Kenneth Leech writes, "Christian spirituality is the spirituality of the Poor Man of Nazareth who took upon himself the form of a servant. To follow the way of the kingdom is therefore to follow him who fed the hungry, healed the sick, befriended the outcast, and blessed the peacemakers."
Even with Jesus living and serving right in front of them, the disciples didn't seem to get it. They wondered how they could be great. But Jesus answered, "Whoever wants to become great amoung you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all" (verse 43-44).
That's the paradox of serving. When we give ourselves away in service, we find ourselves. When we empty ourselves in service, we find fulfillment.
A lot of people search for identity and self-fulfillment. Most look for it in repeated highs of promotions, exotic vacations or an endless parade of worldly possessions. But real fulfillment comes from serving God by serving others. When we give ourselves away in service to others, we find meaning and joy in life that selfishness can never equal.
To Take Away:
  • What oportunites do you have to serve others-even people who can't ever repay you?
  • What small and practical acts of servcie can you do at work or in your neighborhood to serve others?
  • What stes can you take to cultivate a selfless and humble heart of service?

In Other Words:

"I would never want to reach out someday with a soft, uncalloused hand-a hand never dirtied by serving-and shake the nail-pierced had of Jesus."

-Bill Hybels

-Devotions from various writers, New Men's Devotional Bible, NIV, 2006, pg: 1063

**Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved**

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)


video with Chris Tomlin

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine
You are forever mine

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Things God Hates

Read: Proverbs 6:16-19

Proverbs 6:16- There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him.

Hate is a severe word. It expresses and intense hostility or extreme dislike. Many children use the word without thought, and most parents admonish them, "We don't use the word hate." But inevitable the harsh word slips out: "I hate vegetables!" "I hate my little brother!" Many adults aren't much better, and the word slips out all too easily: "I hate it when the pastor's wife gets all the glory." "I hate that man's singing." "I hate skinny models." "I hate to cook dinner."
What do you hate? What things do you avoid at all costs? For some the thought of a certain activity causes intense agitation. Perhaps your first auto accident occurred during a blizzard. To this day, you hate getting behind the sterring wheel when the fluffy flakes appear. Everybody hates something. And strange as it may seem, the Bible says that even the all-loving God hates some things. It may seem strange to us to read the words "hate" and "God" in the same sentence. If God is love, then what does he hate? Solomon lists the top seven things God hates:
  1. A prideful sneer
  2. fraud
  3. bloodshed
  4. conspiracy
  5. evil intent
  6. perjury
  7. inticing division amoung God's people.

Bible commentator Matthew Henry wrote, "God hates sin; he hates every sin; he can never be reconciled to it; he hates nothing but sin," but apparently these sins are especially repugnant to him.

This list possesses a common thread; it includes sin particularly harmul to others. Since human beings are God's special creation, he is exceptionally sensitive to sins that cause grief for others. The list also crecendos: the first six sins place emphasis on the seventh. It's bad for you to sin, but it is "detestable" to start a chain reaction-causing others to sin too.

What are the top seven things you hate? The psalmist said, "Let those who love the Lord hate evil" (Psalm 97:10). To love God is to hate what he hates. Instead of despising veggies or hating to drive on icy roads, go a little deeper. Really think about what's on God's "hate" list. Then Banish those things from your house and your heart.


  • What on God's list of things to hate surpises you?
  • Ask God to show you if you have ever practiced anything on this list. If so, what? (Be honest.)
  • How willyou banish the things on God's list from your life?

Related readings: Psalm 101:1-8; Proverbs 8:13; Romans 1:18-20

-Devotions from various writers, New Women's Devotional Bible, pg: 765

**Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. cOPYRIGHT 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.**

Friday, August 21, 2009

No Condemnation

Read John 3:1-21

John 3:17 "For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."

We often go through the day feeling as if someone is looking over our shoulder ready to judge our actions. My husband probably wonders why dinner isn't made yet...My boss is thinking I'm taking too long with that project...Amber's teacher doesn't understand why we were late this morning...This isn't how Mom would have done it...And perhaps the voice we hear the most is our own: Why aren't you good enough?
Even if others praise us, the pressure we put on ourselves can drown out the latest acclaim. We put pressure on ourselves to do more-and do it better and quicker How could God be pleased with us, we wonder , when we feel so weak?
Listen to the words in this chapter of John's Gospel. God wants a relationship with us-not to condemn us, but to free us. He offers redemption through Jesus-not because we have done something to deserve it, but because he loves us.
Though we may read those words again and again, they can be hard to believe. But try to wrap your brain around this truth: God does not condemn you. None of the pressure you feel throughout the day is from God. In truth, you may be trying to please others or achieve your own goals more than you are tying to please God. You may feel guilty because you keep changing the standard.
Richard Foster writes, "The less we are manipulated by the expectation of others, the more we are open to the expectations of God." Yes, we are weak. Yes, we often fail to meet our own expectations. But what does god expect of us today? To believe in his Son who set us free from sin. To believe that he is stronger than our doubts, fears, pride and ambitions. To believe that he does not condemn us for who we were before we met his Son. To discover who we are in the light of his love, freedom and grace.

  • How have you experienced self-condemnation?
  • Reread the words and personalize them by filing in your name: "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn _____________, but to save __________ through him."
  • How often do you feel judged by others throughout your day? Remember whose opinion really counts. Ask God to show you who you are in the light of his love.
Related Readings:
John 5:24
Romans 8:1-4
1 John 3:19-24

-Devotions from various writers, New Women's Devotional Bible, pg: 1288

**Scripture taken from the HOLY BILE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bile Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.**

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Naked Repentance

Today's Bible Reading:
Psalm 51:1-19

Recommended Reading:
2 Samuel 11:1-12:25
Psalm 139:23-24
1 John 1:9

If you stared your reading today at Psalm 51:1, you may have missed and important bit of background. Look again at the notation under the psalm chapter heading, and you'll understand David's state of mind when he wrote this well-known song.
David faced another spring night in which boredom set in and almost every possible diversion felt like too much effort. The couch made no demands, and the remote fit snugly in his hands. David hit the channel button at random until an alluring flicker caught his attention. Reverse. Stop. He zoomed in to a tantalizing scene-an intimate candlelit spa. he could almost smell the candle wax and bath oil. Although the cool evening air caused a slight haze to rise from the water, the bather's physical attributes were unmistakable.
Long before TV, Kind David knew about channel surfing. Bored, enticed and trapped by his desires, David figured out the bather's name and address before she had even toweled off. He sent messengers to fetch her. But before Bathsheba even responded to the king's summons, David had already sinned. The rest of the story provides the sordid details: adultery, plotting, lying, murder.
Fast forward to a courageous friend, Nathan. he leveled with David and bravely pointed out the king's sins. Now, in a moment of excruciating repentance, David composes a worship song and in the process unburdens his soul. He realizes that despite all his efforts to cover up his sins, God still saw everything, David knows his actions were deeply offensive to God. Now his sin and his soul like naked, exposed before the Lord.
Life offers nearly endless recipes for disaster; Davids' song offers one for forgiveness and mercy. Unmasked, we can turn to God. We can pray and ask for a Nathan to hold us accountable. And we can learn to trust God enough to approach him even when we feel least worthy of that privilege.
God promises to accept a "broken and contrite heart." when we fail to live up to his standard for our lives, we need to come to him with David's prayer on our lips and flowing from our hearts.

To Take Away:
  • From Psalm 51, identify each action David longs for God to do on his behalf, which of these do you need in your life?
  • What statement or image in this Psalm most clearly expresses for you the idea of repentance?
  • When was the last time you came before God with a "broken and contrite heart"? How did God respond?
-Devotions from various writers, New Men's Devotional Bible, pg: 592

**Scripture taken from the HOLY BILE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978m 1984 by the International Bile Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.**

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Where is HOME?

Today's Bible Reading:
Jeremiah 29: 1-14

Recommended Reading:
Deuteronomy 30:3-6
Isaiah 11:11-16
Jeremiah 24:5-7
Philippians 1:21-26

Dignitaries lined the street when the funeral procession passed. Thousands waited just to catch a glimpse of the coffin. In fact, the people of the United States and all parts of the world love and revered the deceased man so much that his remains were disinterred in Tripoli and brought to the United States for a magnificent funeral.
His name was John Howard Payne. You probably haven't heard of him. But this well-loved poet was best know for composing one simple verse:

"Mid pleasures and palaces
Thought oft I may roam;
Be it ever so humble,
There's no place like home."

The prophet Jeremiah knew about feelings of home. He wrote to the elders exiled in Babylon to remind them. Although they found themselves in a strange land, they were still God's people, and God still had plans for them. Until the appropriate time, however, God spoke through Jeremiah and reminded the elders to make a home where they were: "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters (verse 5-6). He even instructed them to pray for the cities and lands in which they found themselves, for if the cities prospered so would they.
This directive might have seemed odd to the people in exile. Shouldn't they start a resistance movement? Some sort of underground, covert military unit designed to get them out of that situation as soon as possible?
In a certain sense, we're in the same situation as those exiles in Babylon. Those of us who know and follow God realize that this world is not our final destination. There is a life after this one-a life more real and closer at hand than most people could even begin to comprehend. Yet instead of asking us to rush through life to get to the end, the Bible encourages us to live here, in "exile," to the fullest, for the glory of the God who put us here. As much as we might excitedly anticipate being in God's presence someday, we have an opportunity-or more precisely, an obligation-to live fully in the here and now.
If you feel like an exile living in a place you really don't want to be, take a look at a bigger perspective. God is present with you now, where you are. And he has a plan for you to fulfill until you reach your final heavenly home.

To Take Away:
  • Why do you think God places us on earth to await our home in heaven?
  • When you envision the bigger perspective for your life, what plans do you think God has in store for you?
  • What impact does setting your heart and hope on heaven have on the way you live today? In what way does your life show that your hope is in heaven?

-Devotions from various writers, New Men's Devotional Bible, pg: 819

**Scripture taken from the HOLY BILE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978m 1984 by the International Bile Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.**

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Loving What God Loves

Today's Bible reading:
1 John 4:7-21

Recommended reading:
Matthew 25:31-46
Luke 10:25-37; 19:1-8

We all have people in our lives who absolutely drive us nuts We might call them EGRs because, in order to be around them, Extra Grace is Required. Maybe they're socially awkward, and conversations with them seem about as invigorating as reading the tax code. Or maybe they're loudmouths who hold really strong opinions and think that everyone else wants to hear their advice. Or maybe they just have a personality that is completely opposite of yours. Whatever the case, one this is true about all of the EGRs: They matter intensely to God.
And if that doesn't induce enough guilt, John piles on more. He points out that if you say you love God yet secretly detest a fellow believer, you don't really understand what loving God means.
When it comes to loving what God loves, John points out that your response affects more than God. It's also a crucial importance to you! John states that this forcefully because refusing to love what God loves poses a huge danger to us. If we dishonor the very people for whom God sent his Son to die, we can't be in tune with God's heart at all.
So when we love what God loves, we make sure to control what we say. We think through how we will come across to people around us. We willingly reign in our responses, aiming to make them godly. In short, we attempt to respond as God would respond, to act as Jesus would.
We'll make these efforts because we want the kind of relationship with God that he wants us to have. As Christians, we're called to love what and who he loves, and that starts with one another-even our EGRs.

To Take Away:
  • Who are the people in your life you'd classify as EGRs-people you find tough to love?
  • What steps can you take to show these people that they matter to God-and to you?
  • What steps can you take to change your heart toward your EGRs?

"In Other Words"
"God is light,' 'God is love,' That which profess to e light yet lacks love, is not of God; while that which calls itself love, but is not according to light is equally not of God."
-J. Charleton Steen

-Devotions from various writers, New Men's Devotional Bible, pg: 1314

**Scripture taken from the HOLY BILE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978m 1984 by the International Bile Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.**